By Bob Goligoski
Blessed by early December snow storms and sunny bluebird days during the Christmas-New Year’s Day span, Lake Tahoe area resorts saw the biggest holiday crowds in four years.
“The ski resort business in the Sierra over the holiday period was up substantially over last year, and the resorts had more people coming since the holiday season in 2010-2011,” said Bob Roberts, CEO of the California Ski Industry Association.
Cold nighttime temperatures during most of December allowed the resorts to generate plenty of additional snow with snow-making systems that resorts have been expanding in recent years.
A report from Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows corporate headquarters was typical of comments from Sierra resorts. “With all of the early season snow – 110 inches total at 8,000-feet in December – we saw great crowds over the holidays and New Year’s, including locals driving to the resorts and visitors staying in the Village at Squaw Valley,” said Melissa Brouse Matheney, a spokeswoman for Squaw Valley/Alpine Meadows. “We were even able to run the aerial tram until 7 p.m. Dec. 27-30 so guests could get some turns in under the lights.”
In years gone by, many Sierra ski resorts collected a third of their annual revenue during the Christmas holiday season. But now, explained Roberts, a resort may generate half of its annual ticket sales with the early season sale of annual lift passes.
Many skiers and riders have discovered that if they only get out on the slopes five or six days a season, that pretty well pays for the price of an annual pass, he added.
All of the 27 ski resorts in the association had enough snow to open for the holiday season.